Monthly Archives: January 2015

Especially for Burns Night & veggies or discerning omnivores all

Whoops, this got lost as a draft, so a bit late!

Just in case, you’re going to veggie Burns Supper you’ll need;

“Ode To A Vegetarian Haggis

1. Oh vegetarian haggis whit a view
Thou glorious, steaming bag of veggie goo
No one could ever say that you
Dish death to beasts,
Not a single murdered chicken, pig or coo
Taints your braw feasts.

2. But noble pud you must ignore the taunting bores
From meaty Caledonia’s shores,
The moaning bloody carnivores
Who think you need
To slaughter sheep in scores
To have good feed.

3. Thy beauteous form can satisfy
The keenest neb or mouth or eye,
Wi’ as braw’ a meal as ane could buy
Pulse, veg and spice
And ev’n sheep eaters that dare to try
Say Oh it’s nice!

4 So stuff the purists and their cries of sin
Let’s split this pudding, serve and shovel it in,
And what the hell if it’s wee skin
A humble plastic bag is.
Let’s drink a toast and we’ll begin
The vegetarian haggis.

Tim Dalling January 1993”

ps for those who don’t know Robert Burns is Scotland’s national bard (poet)

What Do You Taste?

A bit of ice to keep me warm!

A bit of ice to keep me warm!

Another in my self imposed series of the senses.
Taste is closely allied to smell, take way your sense of smell and it will diminish the taste of food or drink. If you can normally smell everything OK and get a bad cold it can take away the taste of food and diminish your appetite.
So what about taste and the bike? It is certainly varied according to the seasons, the terrain, the atmosphere etc.
So it probably starts before you’re even on the bike. Maybe that breakfast taste of marmalade and toast, that hot butter and coffee all still weaving their spell on you taste buds?
Eventually it fades away and the taste becomes a background consciousness of saliva or mucus working away in your mouth. In winter maybe this will be all, though following the peloton could alter this, for better or worse. In summer other tastes will float in with things like the pollens from the fields or forests, such as the sweet sickly taste of oil seed rape, sticking in the throat once your long past the bright yellow field. Or the salt in your mouth as you past the sea front on a windy day, with a faint spray making contact. Or that dry dust thrown up by the wind.
Then there’s the winter with the others in front of you, especially those without mudguards. Yuch, that mud thrown up, that earthy taste. Double Yuch, you pass a field of cows recently herded in, just keep that mouth shut otherwise this just isn’t going to be the sensation you want in your throat. Sometimes though it’s just snow flakes melting on your tongue.
Then bliss, a stop for coffee and scones. That quenching taste of the hot liquid heading down the tongue, lingering again when you’re on your way once more.
But there’s one I hope doesn’t happen too often, that familiar taste. You hit a bad pothole or a bump in the road hard, the blood is in your mouth from biting down suddenly. So much for trying to be alert for 100% of the time, it just won’t happen.
Your water bottle can provide a bit of variety, the slightly metallic taste of some energy compound mix, or sometimes, in my case, sometimes a faint sense of that tiny, tiny bit of red wine I mix in before I go. Also the gels or snacks for energy may give you another thing to savour.
And then there’s that delight when a great smell from a gorgeous field, or pine wood translates itself into a taste that just lingers gently in the background as you cycle on.
So, what do you taste when you are out?

Snow, ice, rain, cold – no probs – but wind and thorns!!!!

A Standing stone on the hill above the village

A Standing stone on the hill above the village

Well, Scottish winters are strange beasts. You get just about everything that weather can throw at you, or beguile you with.

Recently it has been no exception. It has been yo-yoing from -3ºC to 13ºC, from gloriously sunny days to cloud and murk, from total calm to wild winds, from dry delightful roads to torrents streaming down the street or ice & snow patches.

Most of this I don’t mind. Just put on a few more layers or discard them. Wear a wind/ waterproof jacket. Go slow for dodgy conditions, or climb to warm up.

But, recently, the winds have been ferocious. I can hear it clattering against the pan-tiles on the roof, I can see the rain being battered against the windows, we even had one blow in. And as for thoughts of riding in it – just forget it.

If my ride was all downwind, maybe, just maybe I’d venture a tiny weeny thought about it. But, upward into the teeth of a gale just ain’t my idea of fun. Done it too many times mountaineering or sailing. And as for side winds, those gaps in the hedges and fences are scary places to be if a gust hits at the wrong time, especially if there are other vehicles around.

Today the wind dropped about, so I was out with the gang. Just icy patches to contend with, wee snow flurries with sun shining through so taking it very easy and the warm delights of the cafe beckoned. Mostly stayed just above zero as well. But, we came back along my bête noire – a local road that had its hedges cut over a month ago. I think I’ve now had 4 punctures on that road from thorns within that time and that’s on puncture resistant tyres. Ah well, nature will have its way – I just wish it wouldn’t. It’s so wretched replacing inner tubes this weather, and the the cadence thingy decided to get tangled up in the spokes a bit – hurrumph!

But at least I got out, good company, sunny day and some good roads in places.

Now it’s time to batten down the hatches again, the next storm is coming through soonish.

My boat was in there somewhere!

My boat was in there somewhere!

Scotland – contrasts (& a promise to Rachel) + quite a few photies

I’ve lived in Scotland now for over 40 years. It’s home, it’s special to me, I chose it and love it. Why? I love the folk (or the majority of the ones I’ve meet – not everywhere’s perfect!), the humour, the music, the scenery, the history, the wildlife and the changeability (seasons, geology, weather, habitat . . . .) and my grandma came from here.

As for the outdoor life – it can be amazing. I live in the lowlands of Scotland, but within 15 minutes or less I could be cycling, hill walking, surfing, loch & river canoeing, mountain biking, rock climbing, sailing, land yachting, sea canoeing, bird watching, skiing (sometimes), fossil hunting, castle spotting, beach combing etc. etc. etc. Round about are volcanics, sandstones, slates & coal seams, glacial tilt (puddingstone), limestones (with lime kilns & fossils), and the much older graywracke of the Lammermuir hills. Quite a mix in just a few miles. No wonder John Muir was inspired by his boyhood here.

South to the borders are some impressive hills & rivers plus lovely old towns & villages ( and more castles). Go West and Edinburgh & Glasgow beckon with so many attractions. Go North & you’re into the highlands, western side for the truly spectacular landscapes, but more midges & wet more generally,  eastern side for the bigger hills of the Cairngorms & more subtle nooks & crannies.

For me, as a born again cyclist, the country is just amazing, with forests, good climbs, amazing scenery and fabulous sights. To back up this claim I’ve randomly added a few of the many 1,000s of photographs I’ve taken over the aeons. I hope you enjoy them. There’s a wee video cycling through Glen Lyon here:

Aberfeldy Birks

Robert Burns statue – ‘The Birks o’ Aberfeldy’ – Birks are beech trees

Beinn Heasgarnich

View north from Beinn Heasgarnach


Canoeing on the Tweed

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel & maquette for huge horses – the wheel lifts canal boats up

Glen Tress

Glen Tress – while mountain biking

Glencoe-Arisaig wi John 2009-10-05

Glencoe in autumn


On the Culloden Sportive, Grampian Mountain Range behind

Kenmore 09-08-007

Loch Tay with the reconstructed crannog

Kenmore 09-08-078

Side of a house in Killin


Ski touring in our local hills – the Lammermuirs


off Lismore island looking to the mainland, west coast

Loch Quoich 4-04-03

A solo trip to Loch Quoich, doing some winter mountaineering as well

Mull boats

Derelict fishing boats, Isle of Mull

Mull cliffs

Mull cliffs on a cycle trip, the road goes right round the bottom on the raised beach

Mull hazard

Cycling hazards – a highland coo


Our local hills in summer

Nuclear Shelter Torness

Cold War relic – a local nuclear shelter (with a nuclear power station & cement works behind)

Pa of Australia Lachlan Macquarie

Lachlan Macquarrie, ‘Father of Australia’ buried on Mull

Sunshine on Leith

Filming ‘Sunshine on Leith’ in Leith, Edinburgh

Tartan Tat

Tartan Tat on sale in Edinburgh (accompanied by loud excruciating bagpipe music)


One of our local castles – Hailes – has a bottle dungeon & doocot inside

Winter Skills

Instructing – clients practising cramponing on a Winter Skills Course